The last year has given rise to a newfound reliance on Zoom and lots of virtual meetings, but excellent written communication is always needed.
If you’re not sure how your written business communication skills measure up, you can refresh your style with a few solid tips.
Whether you’re writing a quick follow-up note to a colleague, a department memo, or a message to a board of directors, your written communication needs to be polished. Like any other business skill, how well you master the art of professional communication is a reflection on you, so it’s worthwhile to take the time to do it right.
Before you write anything intended for work, think first and write second. It even helps to have an actual checklist in your head or on your desk. If you get into the habit of doing this, you’ll cut down on having to resend an email because you forgot an attachment or a link, sending communication that doesn’t answer the most important point or question, or even sending something with an unprofessional tone.
What should your checklist include? Keep these prompts in mind.
Who is this message intended for?
If it’s an informal note, you can have a more informal tone. But it’s still best to begin with a short salutation (“Hi,” is fine) and end with a thanks. If it’s a more formal communication or is in response to a larger project or initiative, make sure your tone matches that level.
What is the most important point I am trying to convey?
Readers have incredibly short attention spans and in the midst of a pandemic, these spans have become even shorter. Highlight the most important point right up front. You can even tease it a little with the subject line if you’re writing an email. Think about what you would say in person (sometimes this is referred to as the Guess What? step) and try to be that brief in your writing.
How will people find more information?
Are you referencing any kind of study, other communication, organization, or piece of essential information? If so, attach necessary files (Word docs, PDFs, slides, etc.), add hyperlinks, or note where readers can go if they need more information.
Do I have any implicit bias in this situation or with this topic?
If you’re writing about something that is controversial, that you have a differing opinion on, or where you need to really make a case for something, you’ll want to pay extra attention to the tone of your message. There’s nothing wrong with strong feelings, but written communication provides little context around what you are saying so it helps to be extra cautious.
Can anyone read this?
Anything you send creates a record, so take extra care to ensure a message that is direct, but not inflammatory. And don’t ever, no matter how tempting, say something about someone else in an email that you wouldn’t want that person to read. Aside from being exceedingly unprofessional, emails can be sent far and wide and you can’t be quite sure who will see them.
Do I have any mistakes?
Remember, spell check won’t catch improperly used words that are spelled correctly. Even if you’re in a rush, take one final look to make sure everything is accurate and that the right people are on the distribution (and their names are spelled correctly).
Send with Confidence
If you’re able to follow these steps, your written communication skills are bound to improve and will reflect positively on your professionalism. Eventually, this checklist will become a habit and will likely save you some big headaches over the years.
With a necessary focus on technical skills in nursing school, nursing students can’t forget the importance of mastering soft skills.
Nursing students’ days and nights are consumed by learning every technical detail of nursing school, so they can easily neglect the soft skills, like communication and interpersonal skills, that just can’t be learned in a book. But becoming proficient in these will make you a better nurse.
Communication skills are a combination of how you write, what you say, the way you listen, and how you interact with other people. Here are a few ways to boost your communication skills while you are in school.
An easy way to develop communication skills that will help you become a better nurse and make you a more effective team member is to watch others. Do you notice other nursing students who seem to have a way with people? Do some of your supervisors in your clinicals get along with students while commanding an undeniable respect? If you see people who have traits you like, watch what they do and how they do it. You can also notice people who have traits you don’t like or that appear unprofessional so you can avoid those.
Communication isn’t all about what you say. When you interact with others, listen to what they are saying. Whether it is a patient, a professor, a nursing student, or a supervisor, listen carefully to their words before forming your own opinion. People want to be heard and that can only happen when you are listening to them. Don’t interrupt and do hold back on offering your opinion until you know that’s what they are really seeking. You can learn more from listening than from talking.
Almost as important as what you say is how you say it. Be careful to say what you mean. If you have a request, state it plainly. Don’t assume others will know or should know what you want or need. Try to rise above any previously formed feelings (for instance, if your professor has forgotten a set appointment again) so that your voice remains neutral. You can be irritated, but part of mastering soft skills is learning how to speak in control of each situation.
Clear written communication takes work and it takes practice. In a professional world (that includes an academic world), certain rules must be followed. Start practicing as a nursing student. When you need to write to someone, use a proper greeting and a proper closing. Triple check to make sure you have spelled names correctly. When writing a note, a memo, or an announcement, use complete sentences and spell out each word. Professional communication is much different from the quick texts we are all so used to. But when you write clearly and professionally, you’re perfecting your communication skills and forming an important cornerstone in your reputation.
Nursing school is an ideal time to practice your communication skills. Ask for feedback from professors, mentors, supervisors, friends, and other students. They can offer great insight to nuances you might not even be aware of. It’s a great start to a career in nursing.
Effective communication is one of the foundations of good nursing care. The honest forms of nurse-patient communication include verbal and non-verbal communication (e.g., body language, facial expression, gestures, and distance between you and your patients). Effective nurse-patient communication can improve quality of care, clinical outcomes, and a nurse-patient relationship that enhances patient satisfaction. However, effective nurse-patient communication is the biggest challenge for nurses and requires much more than experience and skills.
Here are 3 principles you should follow to help you improve your communication skills with patients.
1. Always put the patients first.
Putting patients first takes a shift of mind. Start your conversation with the patients by taking the time to introduce yourself and tell them how you are going to take care of them. Smile and use a calm and welcoming voice. Provide comfort when they need to be comforted. Always show respect to your patients. Understanding who the patients are as individuals will help the nurse connect with them and will make the patients feel more comfortable while receiving care and treatment. These approaches can make the patients feel really cared for and can improve relationships.
2. Practice active listening.
Active listening is an important part of communication and requires listening for the content, intent, and feeling of the speaker. Active listening involves paying attention to what the patients say and allowing them to finish without judgement and interruption. Paraphrasing or echoing back to them what they have just said, and maintaining eye contact are also key elements of active listening. Lastly, pay attention to their non-verbal clues, such as facial expression, gestures, and eye contact. These skills can improve patient satisfaction and build trust over time.
3. Talk with heart.
Communicating with patients requires ample time. Honesty and frankness are important parts of effective communication between nurses and patients. To achieve effective nurse-patient communication, nurses need to have a sincere intention to understand what concerns their patients have and show them their kindness and courtesy. Acknowledge the patients’ attitudes and tune into their feelings. Always ask patients open-ended questions, speak slowly, and use simpler, non-medical language. If the patient has difficulty understanding the information, you need to clarify or modify the information or instructions until the patient gets it. You may consider using written materials such as handouts, notes, or pictures to demonstrate what you are saying.
When nurses think of the big responsibilities in their careers, patient safety is predominant. But communication skills? Those aren’t often at the top of the list.
Nurses train for years to ensure the safety of their patients. Their unwavering advocacy for patients has done nothing less than transform healthcare. But patient safety can’t happen without clear communication skills. Nurses must have excellent communication skills to provide the best care for patients and to earn the respect of their peers.
What kinds of communication skills will nurses use? Here is just a small sample of how nurses use various communications skills throughout the day:
Communicating with healthcare team members on a patient’s condition, diagnosis, treatment, complications, progress
Explaining to patients about self care, about their diagnosis and prognosis, about resources, and about everything from medications to diet and exercise
Talking with family and loved ones about patient needs, follow-up care, disease, recovery, medication
Communicating with professionals in non-healthcare fields to help secure grants, influence policy, or explain a professional need
Educating the public on healthcare issues that are important to their age, region, or personal health, or educating students on nursing practices or nursing career options
How can you improve your communication skills? Here are a few pointers:
Be precise and clear. If you need information or you need someone to do something, say so. If you are giving information, present it in basic terms.
Ask if anyone has questions. Your audience could be a roomful of academics at a conference, a team of colleagues in your unit, or a single patient—always ask if anyone has follow-up questions. Don’t assume that your audience heard and understood everything you said. This last step gives you an opportunity to recognize where your communication can be strengthened and to convey the needed information.
Write clearly. Whether you are writing a memo or a research paper, use fewer words and make them have greater impact. Decide what you are trying to say, use short paragraphs for ease, add bullet points to emphasize your main points, and make sure you reread everything before you send it..
Consider your tone and body language. The way you speak and hold yourself can support your words and intent, but if they are out of whack, your unspoken actions can cause confusion. Make sure you speak in even tones when possible and that your body language is approachable.
Learn about best practices. You’ll find books, seminars, presentations, and even casual discussions that can all help you sharpen your skills. If you’re a nurse manager, bring this up in each employee review and ask for it in turn from your own supervisor.
Communication can always be improved. Each time it is, your capability as a nurse is strengthened.
Conflict resolution is an essential skill for every nurse. Conflict in the workplace may be unavoidable, but it can be minimized and resolved. Learning to resolve your conflict effectively and early—in a way that does not increase your stress level—is important.
Nurses can experience different types of conflicts including personal, interpersonal, and interdepartmental conflicts. Any conflict can interfere with workflow and harmony. Conflicts can also decrease productivity and damage self-esteem. However, not all conflicts are bad; occasionally a conflict can be good for change in the workplace.
Here are some tips to improve your conflict resolution skills.
1. Practice active listening and communication skills.
Practice listening to what the other person has to say, without interrupting. Make sure you understand what the other person is telling you. Communication provides an opportunity to share thoughts and problems as well as the reason why they are having conflicts. Face-to-face communication is more effective than other forms because it allows for an active exchange of information. It also allows you to observe important nonverbal cues from the other party. It is important that you use open-ended questions to make sure each side understands what the other person thinks and how he/she feels. This invites people to delve deeper into the problem and find the root cause for the conflict.
2. Stay calm and recognize the conflict.
Being calm and aware of your emotions are vital aspects of conflict resolution. Recognizing the legitimacy of conflicting needs and analyzing them in an environment of compassionate understanding will lead to successful problem solving. Use critical thinking skills to analyze the problem and plan your strategy, including what you want to say, and then write it down and rehearse it. Create a note card, if necessary, with your main talking points.
3. Maintain a positive attitude and practice managing your emotions.
A positive attitude is what you need to solve half of the problem. Emotions play a greater part in most decisions so recognizing and understanding your emotion will help you control your emotional response.
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” — Aristotle
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